Time, Temporality, and the Characteristic Marks of the Conditioned: Sarvāstivāda and Madhyamaka Buddhist Interpretations

Asian Philosophy 21 (4):341 - 360 (2011)
According to the Buddhist concept of ?dependent origination? (prat?tyasamutp?da), discrete factors come into existence because of a combination of causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya). Such discrete factors, further, are combinations of five aggregates (pañ caskandha) that, themselves, are subject to constant change. Discrete factors, therefore, lack a self-nature (?tman). The passing through time of discrete factors is characterized by the ?characteristic marks of the conditioned?: birth (utp?da), change in continuance (sthityanyath?tva), and passing away (vyaya); or, alternatively: birth (j?ti), duration (sthiti), decay (jar?), and impermanence (anityat?). In the interpretation of the precise nature of these characteristic marks of the conditioned, and their relation to the discrete factor they characterize, different opinions were prevalent within the Sarv?stiv?da School of Buddhist philosophy, with, judging from later scholastic literature, the views of the D?r???ntika/Sautr?ntika and the Vaibh??ika sub-schools as most prominent ones. The Indian and Chinese Madhyamaka philosophers pointed to the fallacies in the Sarv?stiv?da interpretations of the nature of the characteristic marks of the conditioned and their relation to the discrete factors they characterize, and, hence, to the fallacies in the Sarv?stiv?da interpretations of the concepts ?time? and ?temporality?
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